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WASH or Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene - A Key Concept Across the Globe

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This article briefly discusses the key concept of WASH, global statistics, and its potential measures. Please read below to know more.

Medically reviewed by

Dr. Asma. N

Published At June 15, 2023
Reviewed AtAugust 1, 2023


Global access to resources deemed essential for human existence, such as safe water, adequate sanitation, and proper hygiene education (WASH), is crucial in reducing global illness and mortality rates from public diseases. Sanitation is another important focus of WASH, this should involve proper management of human waste which can improve the sanitation facilities and prevents contamination of water sources, and reduces water-borne diseases. This step forward would result in improved public health, poverty reduction, and socio-economic growth in communities worldwide, contributing to overall socio-economic development. However, many countries, especially those with lower socioeconomic status, still face significant challenges in providing these basic needs to their populations, which increases their susceptibility to diseases caused by a lack of access to water, sanitation, and hygiene.

What Is the Key Concept of Wash?

The key concept of WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) should include three important things which are improving and promoting public well-being, health, and sustainable development. The key concept should recognize access to safe water, adoption of hygienic practices, and proper sanitation facilities to achieve optimal health outcomes. WASH, encompasses the following components:

WA - Water

S - Sanitation

H - Hygiene

The United Nations General Assembly recognized the basic human right to access drinking water and sanitation in 2010. These are essential for sustaining human life and are interdependent entities that play a vital role in global health and combating disease patterns. WASH services address these three concerns to ensure basic health facilities for every individual, regardless of their location or socioeconomic status. Lack of access to these basic amenities can result in vulnerable populations transmitting diseases, further burdening global disease entities.

The focus of WASH, as defined by WHO (world health organization) and UNICEF (united nations international children's emergency fund), is to provide sufficient water, hygiene, and sanitation to maintain basic health facilities for the public. For instance, the absence of toilets leads to water sources becoming contaminated due to open defecation practices. This contaminated water source, in turn, affects basic water hygiene practices within these populations, creating a cycle.

Sustainable WASH is based on five principles:

A. Technical sustainability.

B. Institutional sustainability.

C. Environmental sustainability.

D. Financial sustainability.

E. Social sustainability.

What Is the Focus of WASH?

The focus of WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) is to make sure that everyone has access to safe water and sanitation facilities. Apart from these, it should also focus on promoting hygienic practices for everyone.

Water (WA): This is the most essential, as water is important for the survival of humans, animals, and plants. The focus should be on:

A. Ensuring access and availability of safe drinking water for all population groups.

B. Providing adequate water supply to all populations.

Sanitation: This refers to the conditions related to drinking water, which should be clean and free from pollutants. It also involves proper treatment and disposal of human waste, including excreta and domestic or industrial sewage. The focus of sanitation includes:

A. Ensuring accessibility to clean and hygienic toilets or latrines for the general public.

B. Promoting access to and proper usage of basic latrines.

C. Implementing correct medical waste disposal and segregation techniques to prevent contamination of the environment.

D. Maintaining the cleanliness of groundwater resources.

E. Encouraging proper household waste segregation.

F. Promoting clean households and a clean neighborhood or environment.

One key area of focus in sanitation over the past decade has been the eradication of open defecation in public spaces, as it can lead to the spread of microbial and communicable diseases. According to WHO guidelines, community-led initiatives should be encouraged in all populations to construct, maintain, and practice basic hygiene measures, including the use of toilets.

Hygiene: This is of utmost importance in communities or population groups, and it is the responsibility of individuals and public bodies to prevent diseases, especially among children and young adults. The following hygiene measures should be implemented globally:

A. Personal hygiene maintenance.

B. Regular handwashing with soap or liquid soap.

C. Proper menstrual hygiene practices.

D. Adherence to public food hygiene standards.

What Is the Global WASH Status Statistics?

  • According to the 2015 surveys, nearly 663 million people worldwide still lack adequate access to improved modern-day drinking water resources. Approximately 1.8 billion people rely on drinking water sources that may be contaminated by human feces.

  • The 2015 global survey also revealed that 2.4 to 4.5 billion people still lack access to basic toilet facilities and approximately 13 percent of the global population practices open defecation.

  • Additionally, environmental concerns arise from the discharge of polluted and contaminated water resources into rivers without proper treatment.

  • Regarding hygiene, the 2014 survey indicates that only 19 percent of individuals globally practice hand sanitation after potential contact with excreta.

  • According to WHO reports, diarrhea has become the leading cause of mortality and morbidity among children, particularly those under the age of five.

  • In developing countries, the burden of WASH-related diseases further burdens healthcare facilities. Communicable diseases like cholera or dengue are exacerbated by improper waste management of fecal and solid wastes. The poor practice of WASH can also increase the susceptibility of global populations to diseases such as malaria, polio, schistosomiasis (an infection caused by parasitic worms), helminth diseases (worm infection), and malnutrition-related diseases in children.

What Are the Global Solution Measures Needing Implementation for WASH?

The implementation of global solution measures for WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene) should contribute to improving public health and ensuring safe water access and sanitation for everyone.

A. Increased public awareness about WASH and the importance of adhering to personal and public WASH measures.

B. Well-planned urbanization in communities.

C. Ensuring collaboration between the health and nutrition sectors for WASH implementation.

D. Increased public-private partnerships (PPPs).

E. Personal and collective responsibility within the community to follow WASH measures for a safe environment.


To conclude, there are several global challenges such as a growing population, inadequate WASH coverage in low and middle socioeconomic populations, densely populated cities with improper urbanization measures, and lack of access to basic amenities. Therefore, it is necessary to implement WASH measures in every country worldwide, along with raising awareness to reduce the prevalence of global diseases caused by the lack of access to basic resources.

Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop
Dr. Achanta Krishna Swaroop



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